Can psychoanalysis and neuroscience, each with its own distinct methods, one subjective, one objective, make peace with one another? Can the mind be understood by looking closely into the brain?
Writing of the struggle to “bring some of the old ideas about the mind into the new landscape of the brain, journalist Schwartz has the background to explore these questions: a master’s degree course combining psychoanalysis, taught the first year at the Anna Freud Centre in London, and neuroscience, taught the following year at Yale. After a bow to Freud and his followers, Schwartz focuses on two men: Mark Solms, both a psychoanalyst and a neurosurgeon, coiner of the term “neuropsychoanalysis,” translator of Freud, and founder of the International Neuropsychoanalysis Society; and David Silvers, not a psychiatrist but a practicing analyst, who has as a patient an aphasic stroke victim—i.e., a man who has lost the ability to speak. Schwartz follows Solms’ working and writing lives and includes some fascinating stories about his experiences and those of others working with brain-damaged men and women. She then connects with Silvers, who has been treating a man seemingly unreachable by psychoanalytic technique, a man whose case seems to offer the possibility of a bridge between psychoanalytic ideas and neuroscientific ones. Though the author did not meet the patient, Silvers allowed her to become familiar with him by reading the case notes and listening to his taped reports to colleagues. It is clear that Silvers and his patient connected in some way and that a relationship was established between them, but whether analysis took place is, in the end, debatable.
Schwartz does not provide all the answers, but her highly readable report raises intriguing questions about the limitations and the futures of both psychoanalysis and neuroscience.